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Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
Review
The Fed, liquidity, and credit allocation
Daniel L. Thornton
Abstract

The current financial turmoil has generated considerable discussion of liquidity. Moreover, it has been widely reported that the Federal Reserve played a major role in supplying liquidity to financial markets during this distressed time. This article describes two ways in which the Fed has supplied liquidity since late 2007. The first is traditional: The Fed supplies liquidity by providing credit through open market operations and by lending to depository institutions at the so-called discount window. The second is by enhancing the liquidity of portfolios of some institutions by replacing their less-liquid assets with more-liquid assets. The Fed has used the second approach since late 2007. Unlike several previous occasions, however, it began supplying liquidity in the first, more traditional way only recently-in September 2008. This article notes that the Fed departed from its long-standing tradition of minimizing its effect on the allocation of credit by supplying liquidity to institutions that it believed to be most in need; at the same time, it neutralized the effects of these actions on the total supply of liquidity in the financial market. The article also discusses the Fed's reasons for reallocating credit this time rather than simply increasing the total supply of financial market liquidity.


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Daniel L. Thornton, "The Fed, liquidity, and credit allocation" , Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Review, issue Jan, pages 13-22, 2009.
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Keywords: Liquidity (Economics) ; Financial crises ; Credit - United States
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